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Scott Derrickson
Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Kenneth Welsh, Duncan Fraser
Writing Credits:
Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

What happened to Emily?

After the Catholic Church officially recognizes the demonic possession of a 19-year-old college student, it dispatches a priest (Wilkinson) to perform an exorcism. But the girl dies during the procedure, and soon the priest is on trial for negligence. Laura Linney plays the lawyer charged with defending him.

Box Office:
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$30.054 million on 2981 screens.
Domestic Gross
$75.072 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 12/20/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director Scott Derrickson
• Deleted Scene
• “Genesis of the Story” Featurette
• “Casting the Film” Featurette
• “Visual Design” Featurette
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Exorcism Of Emily Rose: Unrated Special Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 5, 2005)

When it hit screens on September 9th, 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose quickly established itself as a box office hit. The film took in $30 million during its opening weekend, a sizable amount given its low profile and the time of year in which it was released. Studios often hold onto horror flicks until October since the “Halloween bump” seems to help.

Rose bucked that trend and ended up with a pretty nifty $75 million gross. One question remains: how would the film have done with more accurate promotion? Rose was touted to look like a traditional scarefest, but it delivered a different experience. This appeared to cheese off audiences who expected something else. Did the ads draw more fannies into the seats – albeit fannies that soon were disenchanted – or would it have fared better with a more low-key campaign?

That I can’t answer, but I can decide whether or not I think Rose is an effective flick. Based on a true story, college student Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) dies during the period of an exorcism conducted by Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson). Agnostic attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) accepts the case to further her career. Through the trial, we learn what happened to Emily. We also see how apparently supernatural events affect Erin.

Right off the bat, Rose came to the screen with some potential liabilities. First of all, it would inevitably be compared to The Exorcist. Arguably the greatest horror movie ever made, it makes its own sequels look bad, so it seemed likely to badly overshadow Rose.

The film’s framework also created probable problems. The movie starts with the death of its subject, so there’ll be no suspense about what happens to her. We have to watch this all happen in flashback, which seems like a clunky way to witness events. And we’re stuck in a trial the whole time!

Horror film or courthouse drama? Miraculously, Rose pulls off both. As I alluded earlier, the promotional campaign for the movie makes it look like a serious scarefest instead of the more cerebral investigation it offers. This bothered many who didn’t get the popcorn muncher they expected.

Frankly, I don’t understand the complaints. Sure, Rose isn’t a full-out attack on your senses. Like Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist, this is a more psychological affair that entertains explanations both natural and supernatural. It doesn’t go straight for the usual horror vein.

That said, it includes more than enough spooky bits to make it work as part of that genre. In fact, some of those create a minor liability, as Rose occasionally relies too much on the usual loud noises to jolt us. It might have worked better with more subtle scares.

Nonetheless, these usually succeed and don’t seem too cheesy. The courtroom setting creates an unusual way to explore this kind of tale, and a good one at that. I like it mainly because it allows us to get both sides of the story. The medical reasoning for Emily’s woes receives a lot of attention, so although we’re clearly led to buy her demonic possession as the root cause, we hear the other viewpoint as well. This makes the movie richer and allows us to get more involved with things.

A strong cast certainly helps the movie as well. Linney, Wilkinson and supporting actor Shohreh Aghdashloo have all earned Oscar nominations, so that adds credibility to the film. I think the best work comes from Carpenter, though. She’s forced to endure all sorts of physical transformations and machinations through the flick, and she also must play the various stages of possession. She easily could turn these scenes into absurd bouts of campiness, but she doesn’t. We feel the character’s pain and buy the attacks of the demons on her. She provides an exceptional performance in a tough role.

I doubt The Exorcism of Emily Rose will make anyone forget The Exorcist, but no one intended for it to replace its classic predecessor. View Rose as another chapter in the demonic story. It works as both character drama and horror flick, which is no small accomplishment.

Note that this DVD presents an unrated version of Rose. It runs about three minutes longer than the “PG-13” theatrical cut. Fans shouldn’t expect anything too titillating from the unrated edition. It didn’t present nudity, profanity or graphic violence that wouldn’t have been acceptable in a “PG-13” film. It appears that most – all? – of the extra footage comes from Dr. Adani’s cross-examination. This shows up around the 61-minute mark and was cut simply for pacing, not due to graphic content.

If anything else new appears, I’m not aware of it. I hadn’t seen Rose until I got this unrated DVD, and other than some information in the director’s commentary, I found no discussion of changes made to the movie. I like the added scene and think it’s a good piece, but again, the only thing about it that makes the movie “unrated” is the fact Columbia didn’t submit this cut to the MPAA. As far as I can tell, nothing about the longer version would have changed this movie’s “PG-13” rating.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

The Exorcism of Emily Rose appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From start to finish, the DVD offered a strong transfer.

I noticed no problems with sharpness. Even in wide shots, the movie lacked softness. It always came across as tight and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and I witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, a couple of small marks appeared, but the majority of the movie looked clean.

What would a modern horror film be without a stylized palette? Actually, Rose presented more natural hues than normal, though they tended to be rather subdued. The colors fit with the movie’s tone just fine and always appeared full within its dimensions. Blacks were deep and dense, while the many low-light shots demonstrated good definition and clarity. Overall, this was a pleasing image.

In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Rose was positive. The soundfield took full use of the many creepy scenes. It came to life most vividly in the climactic exorcism sequence; at that time, thunder roared and the track created a lively setting. Other scares popped up from the speakers along the way, and the whole package gave us a strong sense of setting that accentuated the spookiness.

Audio quality fared well. Speech was always natural and crisp, with no edginess or issues connected to intelligibility. Music appeared dynamic and full, while effects presented the greatest impact. The scenes that jolted us offered deep, dynamic elements that punched us at the appropriate times. Actually, a couple of shots suffered from slightly mushy bass, but usually the track boasted tight low-end response. This ended up as a solid mix.

We now find a smattering of extras. These open with an audio commentary from director Scott Derrickson. He offers a running, screen-specific track. He discusses how he got involved with the project, the story and its issues, characters and cast, the film’s palette and other cinematographic choices, balancing the courtroom drama with the horror, influences, changes made for the unrated cut, sets, music and audio, research, and many other production notes.

From start to finish, Derrickson proves informative and interesting. He covers a nice mix of subjects that give us a good look at the flick. And in what may be a first, he even refers to another commentary that he used for research; he mentions that he screened Sidney Lumet’s chat for The Verdict as preparation. Here the student surpasses the teacher; Derrickson’s conversation is much better than Lumet’s erratic track. There’s a little of the usual praise, but not too much, as Derrickson stays on track and makes this an excellent commentary.

One Deleted Scene runs two minutes, 40 seconds. It shows Erin as she meets a guy in a bar and takes him home. It’s an odd scene that doesn’t connect much with the movie, though I suppose it shows her loneliness. It was a good deletion.

We can watch the scene with or without commentary from Derrickson. He gives us the usual background information and lets us know why he excised the sequence. Derrickson continues to offer solid notes about the film.

The rest of the supplements come from a series of featurettes. Genesis of the Story lasts 19 minutes and 46 seconds as it presents movie clips, behind the scenes material, and interviews. We get notes from Derrickson, writer/producer Paul Harris Boardman, actors Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter, and Campbell Scott. We learn why the filmmakers took on the project, research and writing the script, the story’s structure and characters, and the movie’s themes. A smart, incisive piece, this featurette gives us a thoughtful look at its topics and proves illuminating.

In the 12-minute and 22-second Casting the Film, we hear from Derrickson, Boardman, Linney, Wilkinson, and Carpenter. As expected, we learn about how the actors got their roles and what they attempted to do with their parts. Carpenter’s work gets much of the attention, though don’t expect a lot of depth here. Unfortunately, this featurette turns out to be fairly fluffy, as we get a lot of praise for all involved without much depth.

For the final featurette, Visual Design fills 18 minutes and 56 seconds. It includes statements from Derrickson, Carpenter, production designer David Brisbin, costume designer Tish Monaghan, visual effects supervisor Michael Shelton and animatronics designer Terry Sandin. The show covers the film’s color palette, clothing choices, sets and locations, methods used to allow Carpenter to play her scary scenes, visual effects, and practical elements. “Design” repeats some information from the commentary, but it digs into its information well. It’s especially helpful to see the behind the scenes aspects, as they elaborate on the subjects. I really like the detailed look at the Emily puppets created for the flick.

The Previews area features a slew of ads. We get clips for Sueno, The Gospel, Boogeyman, Mirrormask, Open Season, The Cave, The DaVinci Code, The Fog, The Grudge, The Pink Panther, The Amityville Horror (1979), The Amityville Horror (2005), and Into the Blue.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose may not provide the horror shocks expected, but that shouldn’t be seen as a problem with the film. It provides a stronger than usual look at the subject. Buoyed by a good cast, it proves interesting and provocative. The DVD offers strong picture and sound plus some illuminating extras. I recommend this thoughtful and involving film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3571 Stars Number of Votes: 28
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.